The New England Patriots have a need to fortify all their skill position players in the passing game. While they selected two tight ends in the 2020 draft, I believe there is no reason to not continue to try to improve the position as a whole. Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene are certainly the two players the team is putting its hopes on at the position, but it could still use another guy who can add some receiving punch and create favorable matchups.
One such player comes from Mississippi, a former transfer out of Temple, as a potential move tight end threat.
Name: Kenny Yeboah
Position: Tight end
School: Ole Miss (Senior)
2020 Stats: 8 games, 27 catches, 524 yards, 6 TD
Size: 6’4”, 247 lbs
Week 1 Age: 22
Expected Draft Range: 5th
Strengths: Yeboah is a solid receiving tight end with the versatility to be an effective weapon from different areas of the field. After spending three years at Temple, the former two-star recruit transferred to Ole Miss ahead of the 2020 season. Despite the massive leap in competition to the SEC, Yeboah put up a respectable 27 catches for 524 yards and six touchdowns. His catches ranked second on the team, and his touchdowns ranked seventh amongst FBS tight ends.
Yeboah is not only a solid receiving option, but also a dangerous runner after the catch. 244 of his yards came after he caught the ball, which ranks fifth amongst FBS players at his position. That makes him a solid fit for the Patriots offense, where he can catch the ball either in the middle of the field or on routes where he is running away from defenders (over, slants, hitches). His 6-foot-4 frame also plays well in the red zone, as evidenced by his solid touchdown production.
Weaknesses: Yeboah is not going to be a point-of-attack blocker, similar to how 2020 draftees Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene were utilized in college. However, he does enough to stay on the field for early downs. That could be problematic in substitution situations, though, if teams can feel comfortable putting an extra defensive back on the field in lieu of a linebacker and not have to worry too much about run defense. Against some of the best sub defenses in the NFL this could become an issue for New England, but against teams with poor run defenders at safety or nickel it could work.
Why the Patriots should draft him: At the point that Yeboah is expected to go off the board, it is more about taking fliers than it is about filling needs. The Patriots drafted a pair of tight ends in the third round last year, but Yeboah has a unique enough skill set compared to both Asiasi and Keene that he could stick around despite his likely Day Three draft status. He provides a bit more receiving punch and is a functional enough run blocker to hide away from the play or to help with a double team block.
His real value to the team would come as a matchup weapon in the middle of the field against linebackers or safeties, or against smaller cornerbacks in man-to-man coverage.
Why the Patriots might not draft him: New England is still going to want to get a larger sample of their recently drafted tight ends to get a better picture of what they can do to contribute in the long run. With the unpredictability of the draft and teams possessing information that we will never know until the aftermath at the earliest, players will rise and fall. The Patriots may elect to grab a veteran or two in free agency next month and see what they will get from there.
Given that the Patriots drafted a tight end in the fifth round a year after taking Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, however, I can’t discount the possibility they get a flier prospect at the position.
Who does he have to beat out: Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene are the only two certainties at the tight end position, despite both players being out for most of their 2020 rookie campaigns. The team also has Matt LaCosse and Ryan Izzo on its roster: Izzo is limited to mostly a blocker at the position while LaCosse was unable to produce respectable numbers, even with Tom Brady at quarterback in 2019.
LaCosse is a likely roster casualty while Izzo may be the team’s third option at the tight end position if Asiasi and/or Keene are able to make a second-year leap. Yeboah could be a guy who adds a bit of receiving depth at the position if he can stick around.
2021 Role: Yeboah will likely start his rookie season as a healthy scratch barring an outstanding first training camp. He will be on the roster bubble as a likely Day Three pick and will therefore start the year as a healthy scratch due to being a non-factor on special teams. It is also entirely possible he is able to make it past waivers and stay on the Patriots’ practice squad as a depth option with the elevation rule now in place.
2022 and beyond role: With Asiasi and/or Keene being the main options at the Y-spot, Yeboah would develop into an F-tight end so that the Patriots can move him around the formation to try to discern the opposing defense. His ability to box out defenders makes him a key red zone threat on a roster that doesn’t really have anyone who has that skill set. In addition, he’s an OK enough run blocker that the Patriots could be able to run against sub defenses provided he’s not being asked to block at the point of attack.
For how his receiving skills will impact the game, they can utilize him in the slot, the backfield, or even in 3x1 sets where he’s the lone receiver on his side of the field. That would tip to the quarterback if the defense is in man coverage (linebacker or nickel/dime defensive back) or zone (boundary cornerback). A QB who can process that information quickly will be able to take advantage.
Conclusion: It’s clear the Patriots are interested in Yeboah’s receiving skills, both as a moveable chess piece on offense and as a potential red zone threat. Provided Josh McDaniels stays as New England’s offensive coordinator, we know how the team likes to use tight ends in the pre-snap phase of the offense to get defenses to tip their hand.
Yeboah’s ability to run routes from different areas of the field will come in handy should they require him to line up as a slot or X-receiver in certain packages. There was also a report out from Justin Melo of The Draft Network that the Patriots held a virtual meeting with the former Ole Miss and Temple player recently.